Time is a sales engineer's most important resource. Things can get pretty hectic when you're working multiple sales opportunities, and supporting more than one account executive. As a resource for the sales team, it's pretty easy to feel overloaded. Here are some tips on time management to help maximize your efficiency, and win more deals!
Develop the Proper Attitude About Time
Time is a non-expandable resource, and everyone is given the same amount. The way that you manage your time may be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors, distinguishes you as a top contributor in your organization, or helps close a deal. Great sales engineers know that time can only be used or wasted.
Know How Much Your Time is Worth
Take your salary or on-target earnings and divide it by the number of hours in your work week. If you spend an hour on a task or meeting that is not related to moving an opportunity closer to the finish line, then you can kiss that hour's worth of money goodbye.
Know Where Your Time Goes
Nobody likes filling out time sheets, but consider keeping a log of your activities over the course of a day or week. At the end of the day, take stock of what you've accomplished and how long it took you. The brain is a funny thing; the things we enjoy doing seem to go fast, while the things we don't enjoy seem to take forever. Keeping a log will give you the chance to check-in with reality.
Next, ask yourself some tough questions:
1. Were you working on the right things for the right amount of time? As a sales engineer, you should be able to categorize your activities into sales execution, solution development, interfacing with product & engineering, and personal development.
2. Was there something that you could have done faster or more efficiently? Are you reinventing the wheel for every opportunity? Can you create a template, or perhaps even script a tool to automate a demo?
3. What were the obstacles that prevented you from getting things done? Do you need to limit your time on social media? Is your work environment too distracting?
4. If you were interrupted, how long did it take for you to get focused again? Having your work get interrupted is inevitable. What are the tactics that can get you back into the "zone."
Take Great Notes
Writing things down can save you tons of time in the future. Be sure to put all of your notes in one place whether that be in a journal or on a device. Before you pack-up your laptop at the end of the day, convert your notes into a to-do list for the following day.
Plan Your Workday
There's a saying that goes "By failing to plan, you plan to fail." Start your day by looking at your calendar and have an idea what you will do with each hour. Hopefully, you're already pretty booked with customer meetings, but what will you do with that hour between customer meeting "A" and customer meeting "B?" If you're not careful, you might miss an opportunity to create that killer presentation that could have helped you win a sale.
We all know that we should be working on our highest priority items, but keep in mind that what you think is a priority may not be the highest priority for the team. In order to set a priority, you should work with your fellow sales reps to understand which of their accounts or leads they're targeting, and where they'd like you to concentrate your efforts.
Set a Deadline
Instead of saying that this or that must be done "as soon as possible," assign it to a particular date on the calendar. When you're in a sales cycle, you should be able to gather from the customer when they want to be live with your product, and work backwards from there. You can work backwards from the day they would need to sign a contract, to when they'll need a demo, to when you'll need to hold a discovery of requirements call.
Remember Parkinson's Law
"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Which means, that people in bureaucratic organizations will create work to fill the time given to complete a project. You must vet every request that is made of you to ensure that it is truly a good use of your time. Make sure that the tasks you're taking on are aligned with your mission of winning sales opportunities.
Determine What Gets Results
When you close a successful deal, be sure to look back at the work that you did to see what were the activities that really made a difference. See if you can narrow your efforts next time around to just those things that were most impactful.
Do the Hardest Thing First
When you look at your To-Do list, it can be easy to put-off items that seem like a bigger challenge. Instead, tackle those items first thing in the morning, otherwise they'll slip from one day to the next...and to the next.
Allow yourself to iterate on your process. Test new processes, and try new tools. The most important thing about time management is just being conscious of its value, and having a desire to make the most of every day.